The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that two private companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. It’s the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.
In a statement, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch applauded the US Supreme for acting to protect the religious freedom of all Americans. Hatch was a lead author of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993, which supreme court justices used as the basis for their decision. Utah Senator Mike Lee and Representative Rob Bishop also released statements praising the ruling. But John Mejia of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah says the decision is limited in its scope.
“I don’t think that it necessarily has broad ranging implications on other cases,” Mejia says. “I don’t think that the court has said any time an employer is claiming a religious belief, they’re going to get an automatic opt out of any given regulation. It’s still going to be the same fight that you’re going to have every time.”
Conservative Utah think tank Sutherland Institute released a statement, calling the ruling a reprieve, but saying supporters of religious freedom can’t let down their guard. Sutherland’s Director for Family and Society Bill Duncan says Utah state lawmakers can help by passing their own comprehensive religious liberty protections as soon as possible.
“If states want to see the kind of result within their state in terms of protecting religious liberty, they will do well to have a similar law to the one Congress passed so that they can expect that same result if there was a similar dispute between a government practice and religious liberty claim,” Duncan says.
According to Duncan, 19 states have passed their own Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to their individual state and local governments.